The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea by former Navy Chief Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas and others challenging the appointment of 1979-batch IPS officer Sharad Kumar as vigilance commissioner in the probity watchdog Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), saying the petitioners were not the aggrieved persons.
A bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi said Ramdas and others cannot come to the court on behalf of those who might have been affected by Kumar’s appointment. “Let the aggrieved persons come. If nobody is aggrieved, why should we hear you,” the bench, that also comprised Justices Navin Sinha and K M Joseph, told advocate Prashant Bhushan, who appeared for the petitioners. Bhushan told the court that the advertisement issued for the post said that only those below the age of 62 years as on January 1, 2018, could apply.
The plea claimed that Kumar was not eligible for the post as he was over 62 years old and several others were unable to apply for the post due to this condition. When Bhushan termed it as “arbitrary and discriminatory”, the bench observed, “if somebody, who could not apply due to this and says there is violation of Article 14 (equality before law), we can hear him”.
The counsel contended that the CVC was a very important institution of the country as it was the nodal agency for CBI. When Bhushan said there were “many others” who could not apply, the bench said, “those many others have not come before us. You cannot come on their behalf.” “It is not your case that the advertisement is per-se contrary to the statute,” the bench said, adding “if somebody whose life has been invaded upon comes to us, we will hear him. The PIL (public interest litigation) is for those who cannot afford to come (to the court). You cannot espouse the cause of somebody else.”
To this, Bhushan said there were lots of people who could not apply and they cannot come to the court as they were “under a fear” that the government may victimise them. “Let us assure them that there is no fear. We are here to take care of it,” Justice Gogoi said.
Sharad Kumar, a former chief of National Investigation Agency (NIA), was appointed as the vigilance commissioner on June 10 this year. He had retired in September last year after heading the NIA, the anti-terror probe organisation, for over four years. According to the official order, Kumar was appointed vigilance commissioner in the CVC for a term of four years or till he attained the age of 65.
According to the rules, Kumar’s tenure will come to an end in October 2020. The Commission comprises the central vigilance commissioner and two vigilance commissioners. Besides Kumar, K V Chowdary is the current CVC and T M Bhasin is the other vigilance commissioner.